When It Comes To Connecting A Community, These Guys Have A Slam Dunk Solution

"It's those types of connections that make our neighborhood safer."

On Tuesday, August 8, over 400 members of the East Moline community in Illinois gathered to watch a basketball game. This wasn't just any basketball game, but the second annual Hoops 4 Hope event

Originally created by NBA player Kannon Burrage with the intention of improving relations between the East Moline Police Department and the community it serves, Hoops 4 Hope has since exploded in popularity and, consequently, positive impact. 

Tayvian Johnson
Tayvian Johnson
Tayvian Johnson
Tayvian Johnson

The success of this year's event is due to Tayvian Johnson, a former Augustana College basketball player and current residential director at the university, who took over the event planning for Burrage while he is playing basketball overseas. "I felt like I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off for the first part of it, but it went really well," Johnson told A Plus. "A lot of people came out — a lot of people — more than we, I think, were expecting." 

Of the hundreds that attended the event, Johnson couldn't believe how many (he estimated roughly 100) came up to him and expressed their thanks. "Most of the people who said something told me that there was a need for this," he recalled. "They're happy to see this happen because they felt like this is… what was going to assist and empower [them]." 

Tayvian Johnson

"It's community events like this that makes our neighborhood safer and a more caring place to live," Thomas Reagan, captain of the City of East Moline Police Department told A Plus. "...Our goal is not to have the police officers versus the community. We want the police officers to live, play, and work with the community." 

While the main draw of Hoops 4 Hope is the police officers versus community basketball game, the evening began with a youth knockout game, with the winner receiving a new bicycle. A middle schooler made it all the way to the finals and played against high school boy, about 15 years old according to Reagan. Although the high schooler ultimately won the game, he already had a bike and so gave the new one to the middle schooler who didn't have one. 

That simple, yet nonetheless significant, act of kindness not only embodied the spirit of Hoops 4 Hope but was a memorable, heartwarming moment for both Reagan and Johnson. While the overarching goal of the basketball game is to improve relations between local law enforcement and community members, it has also become a way for community members to better connect with each other — long after the last buzzer sounds.  

Learn more about how Hoops for Hope makes a community safer on the next page.

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